In memory of Tin Ujević

Objavljeno 5.7.2012.

Commemorating our great Tin on the anniversary of his birth, and keeping in mind his enormous everlasting contribution to Croatian literature, we cannot but agree with his statement: The artist lives in his work, not in any way in his life.

Augustin Josip Ujević was known in literature as Tin Ujević, or even better, just Tin. He was a poet and bohemian and, as the Fellow of the Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts Ante Stamać once said, without a doubt, the greatest poet in Croatian literature of the twentieth century. Whether or not we agree with this assessment, there remains an eternal need to emphasize the literary values that this great, unbreakable and fiercely independent spirit has left us, leading his solitary life in which he lived by his own unconventional principles.

Tin Ujević was born on 5 July 1891 in Vrgorac, Croatia. He began his education in Imotski, after which he moved to Makarska, where he finished his primary education. In 1902 he left for Split where he went to an academically-oriented secondary school and started living in the archiepiscopal seminary. After completing his secondary education in Split, he became a student of the Croatian language and literature, classical philology, philosophy and aesthetics at the Faculty of Philosophy in Zagreb (today’s Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences).

It is widely known that at the beginning of his work he was extremely dedicated to Matoš. Through Matoš he discovered Baudelaire, which he similarly considered a founder of modern poetry. His first two collections of poetry Lelek srebra and Kolajna, known as two neo-Petrarchan love breviaries, were written as one single collection in Paris during the First World War. Although they were originally written in the Croatian language, the publisher divided the collection in two parts without Ujević’s consent and printed them separately in Belgrade in the Cyrillic script and Ekavian dialect.

Apart from dealing with purely artistic themes, in his poems Ujević also addressed the political issues of his time, especially when he raised his poetical voice together with those who belonged to Matoš’s ciricle in 1909 in the immigrant journal Mlada Hrvatska, published by the Party of Rights.

Ujević’s poems are full of intense moments of personal tragedy, deep secrets of spiritual, non-physical love, as well as inspired hymns to human labour and brotherhood. Tin Ujević, as an unsurpassed magician of words managed to remain outside all literary schools and tendencies, sharing certain characteristics with everyone but at the same time being different from all.

There are some 380 records about his works in the Online Catalogue of the National and University Library in Zagreb, and a part of his literary heritage is preserved in the Library’s Manuscripts and Old Books Collection. Ujević published his writings in all renowned newspapers and journals, in which likewise numerous articles about Ujević were published, and a part of that material in the digital format is available at the Portal of Digitized Croatian Newspapers and Journals.

Tin Ujević died on 12 November 1955 in Zagreb.